Pressure mounts on Brussels to comply with Airbnb rules – POLITICO
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Expressed by artificial intelligence.
Tourism is back, and so is cities’ irritation with platform-driven tourism.
For once, this anger is not aimed at the platforms themselves, but at Brussels. A long-awaited European Union regulation on short-term rental platforms like Airbnb has been postponed during the summer — fueling the impatience of a group of European cities and legislators. These rentals negatively affect the affordability and livability of cities, they argue, and the delay further compounds the problem.
In a letter dated July 14, seen by POLITICO and signed by dozens of MEPs and more than 10 European cities, the European Commission was urged “to urgently move forward” with its so-called short-term rental initiative.
Unexpectedly, Airbnb having a big summer – as boring as that might be for cities – could help keep the issue on the Commission’s priority list. The bloc has also been very busy with so-called horizontal legislation, such as digital contest and content moderationraising fears that more sector-specific legislation will continue to take a back seat.
A controversial debate
With the new regulation, the EU executive is about to embark on a debate that for years has mainly taken place in cities, courts and EU member countries.
An EU-wide survey carried out by the Commission from September to December last year to prepare for the initiative revealed how controversial the topic is – the survey got 5,696 responses, an abnormally high number. In addition to platforms like Airbnb and Booking.com, a coalition of cities also weighed, calling itself the Alliance of European Cities for Short-Term Vacation Rentals. Among the cities were major tourist hotspots like Amsterdam, Barcelona, Paris and Berlin.
Since then, the timing of the expected settlement has been constantly changing. It was originally on the Commission’s agenda for June 1, but was pushed back to the fall. It resurfaced on a draft Commission agenda seen by POLITICO for October 12, but was scrapped later.
These continued delays are testing the nerves of a broad coalition of EU lawmakers – including MEPs from the Greens, S&D, Left, EPP and Renew – as well as cities and urban policy lobby groups like Eurocities .
“We are extremely concerned that the proposal is no longer currently on the list of initiatives expected to be launched through December,” the lawmakers and cities wrote in the July 14 letter to Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager and to curator Thierry Breton. Short-term rentals have already affected house prices, they wrote, and the current cost of living crisis is adding fuel to the fire.
“Current increases in the cost of living, rents and property prices are placing many European households under increasing financial pressure,” the letter said.
Signatories to the letter and other observers suspect the Commission needs time to understand how the regulation will relate to other EU laws, such as the Digital Services Act moderating content and protection rules block data, General Data Protection Regulation.
Initially, there were calls to address short-term rental platforms in the DSA. One of the slogans of the proposal was: “What is illegal should be illegal”. Part of the debate surrounding short-term rental platforms is whether listings that defy local regulations should be considered “illegal content” that the platforms should tackle. In their feedbackthe aforementioned European Cities Alliance advocated for such action.
But that didn’t happen. “We spoke to the Commission [and asked]: Will you address this in the DSA, or will there be a lex specialis as a plug-in on the DSA? They said: ‘No, let’s not deal with this in the DSA because this is horizontal regulation,’ said Greens MEP Kim van Sparrentak, who is responsible for Parliament’s report on affordable housing. “But then you have to deliver it, of course.”
Another controversial subject is cities’ access to data from short-term rental platforms. Cities claimed in their feedback that they needed access to all sorts of data (such as host credentials, number of beds in the accommodation and number of nights rented) to enforce local rules – but the platforms said these requests were “incompatible” with the GDPR.
Van Sparrentak sides with cities in this one: “The problem right now with Airbnb is that there’s no requirement to share data, which makes it impossible to enforce. There’s already has many cities with regulations[s] on short-term rentals…but they can’t enforce it because there’s no obligation to share any data that might be needed.”
Asked for comment, a Commission spokesperson said the Commission planned to adopt an initiative in the autumn, focusing “on issues of transparency in the short-term rental sector”.
Airbnb, in a statement, said 4 in 10 European hosts say hosting on Airbnb helps them cope with the rising cost of living. “We continue to support the work of the EU to update its rules and unlock the benefits of accommodation and the single market for more Europeans,” the platform said.
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